Nato defends ICTY from Russian attack
FLORENCE, May 25, 2000 -- (AFP) NATO Secretary General George Robertson defended on Thursday the UN war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia from Russian allegations that it is "politicized."
Speaking to reporters at the end of a two-day NATO foreign ministers' meeting, Lord Robertson said the alliance "fully supports" the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
"We believe that the standard of justice in The Hague is good, thorough and fair," he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, in Florence to put NATO-Russia relations back on track after a fallout last year over Kosovo, accused the tribunal Wednesday of lacking objectivity.
"It has long since turned into a body that is not so much judicial as politicized," the foreign minister said in response to questions at a press conference.
Russia, he said, was "not satisfied" with the way the tribunal is fulfilling its mandate, and reserved the right to raise its concerns at the UN Security Council.
The tribunal was set up in the 1990s to indict and try war crimes suspects from Bosnia-Herzegovina. It extended its scope last year to include Kosovo.
Most of those indicted have been ethnic Serbs, most notably Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, co-indicted with Defense Minister Dragoljub Ojdanic for atrocities against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
Ojdanic turned up in Moscow earlier this month on a visit that Ivanov acknowledged was the result of "an internal technical hitch" between Russian government departments.
"Measures are being taken so that such a situation will not be repeated," he said Wednesday, adding that an explanation had been sent to The Hague, where he said the affair was considered "closed."
Robertson said Ivanov was "perfectly entitled to his opinion," but stressed that he disagreed with his views.
"NATO fully supports the UN-created International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and supports it when it can," he said, alluding to NATO's periodic detention of suspects in the Balkans.
Asked to specify the faults that Russia found with the tribunal, Ivanov complained Wednesday of "a predominance of Western representatives, and US representatives" on its staff.
The tribunal's president, Claude Jorda, is French, and ICTY chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte is Swiss.
Ivanov also said Moscow was "categorically against" its use of closed indictments, whereby suspects do not know they are wanted for trial until they are captured.
Sixty-seven names appear on its open indictment list, including Milosevic. Of that number, 39 are in detention and one has been provisionally released, according to the tribunal's Internet site.